Expect Nothing [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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The man was about to begin hiking the Appalachian Trail. The interviewer asked, “What do you expect it will be like? What do you expect will happen?” The man replied, “I try not to have any expectations. I want to be open to what comes along, whatever that might be.”

It’s a spiritual practice. Make no assumptions. Release all preconceived notions. Open to what is and not what you think should be. Have the experience first, make meaning second. All good advice for attempting presence: that place we fully occupy but rarely visit.

Making meaning. It’s what people do. Wrap an experience in a story. Wrap it in a blanket of belief. Often we muffle the experience in a heavy cloak  before we’ve had it.”It’s going to be hard.” “I don’t think they will like me.” Or, “This will be the best!” “I’m going to crush it!”

Joe used to call this high-dream/low-dream. Imagine the best. Imagine the worst. Like a magical invocation. Either way, an expectation is set. The story has begun and imposes a slick layer over the happenings. The story bleaches the experience-space, that full range of color available between the high and low.

It’s no wonder we can’t find compromise in our current nation-story.

I watch DogDog in the morning. He can’t wait to race outside. He barks for no other reason than it feels good. He sits in the sun. He chases birds with no hope or expectation that he will catch one [he wouldn’t have the vaguest idea what to do if he actually caught one]. DogDog does not know there is a pandemic. He does not care about people politicizing mask wearing. He holds no expectation for the direction of the day. His to-do list is blank. He is happy going on errands. He is happy sleeping on the cool tiles.  He holds no grudges. He makes no judgments. He holds his story lightly. He is happy both before and after he eats. Sometimes he even tastes his food. Above all, he is happiest when we are happy.

Open to experience, DogDog has much to teach me. He has much to teach the world.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HAPPY DOING

 

 

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The quote “happy doing something, happy doing nothing” comes from an article about Augie the dog.

Let The Pieces Fall [on KS Friday]

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“It is the paradox of spiritual growth that through such bleak midwinter journeys we eventually come through a hidden door into a bright field of springtime that we could never have discovered otherwise. This is the heart of the mystical. It is not about building protectionist armour of prayer and religion; it is, rather, the courage for absolute divestment. In the sheer vulnerability of Nothingness everything becomes possible in a new way, but there is an immense temptation to flee back to the shelter of old complacency. Now could be the most important moment in life to steel our courage and enter the risk of change.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

Parcival returned to the place in the deep woods where he’d stripped off his armor. Was it yesterday? A year ago? Two? He couldn’t remember. While he searched for the place he remembered with satisfaction the battles he’d waged, the ogres he’d defeated. The mission he’d served. He longed to once again inhabit that simple clarity, that single focus.

His old armor was not hard to find but it looked nothing like he remembered it. No longer shiny and hard, it was brittle with rust and covered in moss and vines. Nature was reclaiming it. Still, he wanted to put it back on. He wanted to forget the reasons he took it off in the first place. The loneliness. The fear. Forever fighting the lost cause, the imagined foe. He wanted to remember the good and ignore completely the painful parts of the story.  He could go back! He could be the great knight once again.

His vision crumbled like his armor when he attempted to pick it up. Going back was a fantasy. Retreating back in time, donning again his old armor,  was perhaps the final ogre to fight. Like all of the other ogres, it, too, was an illusion. He let the rusty pieces fall back to the forest floor.

Now, allowing the full force of his vulnerability, the utter absence of role or definition, he no longer yearned for the tight closure of what was, but wholly surrendered to the expansive, the infinite and uncontrollable new.

LONGING on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LONGING

 

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longing/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

FaceTheRain

Why Wait? [on DR Thursday]

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“Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.” ~Rainier Maria Rilke

And, so, we wait. We sit in our homes for the benefit of all. I’ve heard from my pals that time has seemed to warp, twist, and fade. Routines are broken. Patterns scattered in the new necessity. It begs the question, as we wander from room to room, where can we go if cannot go from here?
I’m fond of a thought from Eckhart Tolle: Presence is when you are no longer waiting for the next moment, believing that the next moment will be more fulfilling than this one.
In our daily walks, we often end up in the cemetery at the end of the street. It is the only place we can go and not cross paths with other people. Cemeteries are good for perspective. There are birth dates and death dates and nothing in between. Whole lives lived, loves lost and found, fortunes made and lost.  ‘Imagine all the crap this person worried about that didn’t really matter,” I say. Kerri nods. I imagine each and every one of these souls would give anything – anything for a single moment of precious life. Any moment would do, but I suspect they’d want back all of those moments that they branded as “waiting.” Moments wanting to be somewhere else and completely missing what was right before them, rich and beautiful.
Presence is one of those easily abstracted and often misunderstood experiences. It can be found in the drawer labeled ‘spiritual things.’ It is loaded with paradox. One cannot strive for presence. Striving for presence is the ultimate oxymoron. Presence is actually very practical. Stop striving to be elsewhere. That’s it. Simple. Yet, that is what makes it so hard to embody. It requires a bit of surrender.
And, so, in this time of pandemic, we wait. We sit in our homes for the benefit of all. Time twists. Assumptions turn to dust. Tomorrow cannot be planned. We writhe for entertainment, places to go. We grouse for something to fulfill us, distract us. We make up things to fill time.
Strolling through the cemetery, I ask myself, “How much of my life am I willing to give away to waiting?”

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they wait ©️ 2018 david robinson

Inhabit Someday [on KS Friday]

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My life is nothing like what I imagined it would be. I had ideals and visions, hopes and dreams. Yet, here I am.

One day I awoke with the realization that I was spending an inordinate amount of my life wanting to be somewhere else, someone else, in a place I called “fulfillment.” In other words, I was giving away my day – my happiness – for an illusion. I spent that entire day paying attention to where I was. I didn’t have to try. I had to allow. You’ll not be surprised to learn that my day was extraordinary. An outside observer would have commented that nothing happened but they would have been…mistaken.

I painted for the pure pleasure of doing it. And breakfast (OMG)! I smelled coffee. I walked in the sun. I held my wife’s hand. I fixed again the perpetually broken handle on back door. I sat on the raft and wrote. I read aloud what I wrote (as we used to say, “tasting the words”). I laughed. We laughed. I played with dogga in the backyard. I listened as Kerri played the piano. She sang! We cooked dinner together. Sipped wine.

In fact, my day was much better than my imagined fulfillment because, well, it was actual fulfillment. True, I was not Leonardo Da Vinci, I had no Oscars on my shelf, and my financial situation was the stuff of comedy.  Yet, in fully inhabiting my actual moment, I was surprised at how little those other things mattered. As Quinn might say, my wall of respect had nothing on it and I couldn’t be more pleased.

My life is nothing like what I imagined it would be. It is so much better. That Morning Someday, I’ve learned, is nothing (quite literally nothing) if not today.

 

THAT MORNING SOMEDAY on the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is available on iTunes

 

 

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that morning someday/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

Admit It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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When we first met, a snowfall – especially at night – served as an immediate call to strap on our shoes, pull on our parkas, and walk into the quiet of the new snow. Somewhere in the passage of time, we ceased heeding the call and, instead, opted for warm blankets, wine and a gaze out the window. “Look at how huge those flakes are!” we exclaim and sip.

So it was a surprise that with last weeks sudden spring snow, we both felt that old giddy schoolchild’s enthusiasm and threw on our coats (pulled mittens over splinted wrists) and crunched into the evening flurry.

The sun was setting so the neighborhood was awash in purple and blue. The wind through the trees served to hush an already muted world. We came upon an evergreen tree that made us gasp. We pulled off her mittens so she could take a picture.

It is in moments like these that I remember all that I know about perfection, all that I forget the second I re-remember all that I know about perfection. Namely, it is not an achievement. It is not something to strive for. It is not distinct or otherworldly. It is here all the time. The challenge is in seeing it. The challenge is offering it admission into our otherwise busted and angst-ridden narratives.

A quiet evening. The crunch of our feet in new snow. A flurry of unique-in-all-the-world flakes falling into uniformity on the ground, resting in the needles of an evergreen. Kerri gasps, “Help me take off my mitten! I want a picture.” I step back, breathe in the cold clean air. The wind playing music through the trees. “Isn’t it gorgeous?” she asks moving in for a close-up.

‘Perfect.” I nod. Just perfect.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SNOW IN EVERGREENS

 

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Step Into The Ripple [on DR Thursday]

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I’ve never understood faith as a religious term. Look up the word in the dictionary and you’ll come across trust, belief, and conviction. Rather than a lofty word reserved for worship day, it has always struck me as an everyday something – that becomes extraordinary when you realize how ever-present-and-ordinary it actually is. Stepping blindly. Blindly stepping. Each and everyday.

We surround ourselves with calendars and lists and routines and rituals and patterns – all necessary mechanisms to plan our days but they also serve to protect us from the truth of our walk on this earth: there is not a moment, an hour, or day that is actually known before it is lived. Every moment of every day is a step into the unknown.

The real practice of faith is not about an abstraction.  It is a recognition that walking in faith is an essential part of the human condition. The real practice is in realizing it. Being right where you are, open to the reality and empty of the illusion of certainty that you know what is coming. You do not. The true spiritual practice is to empty yourself of the need for the illusion of control.

Fully inhabiting the moment. Standing at the crossroad of past and future without the map of ‘I-know-what’s-going-to-happen’ dulling the experience.

Spiritual practices are not meant to be other worldly. They are, at their best, concrete relationships found at the intersection of past and future, in that tiny slice of infinity called “the moment.” It is a miracle of unknowns and surprises.

The practice of faith is the practice of putting down what you think you know – dropping the notion that you know what will happen- and stepping fully and with intention into the rippling unknown.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FAITH

 

 

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chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Give And Receive [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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DogDog has two distinctly different personalities. In the sunny hours he is high strung, high energy, high joy. He rarely stops moving, circling the yard, circling the rooms of the house, moving his toys from here to there and back again. When it is time to take out the garbage, he delights in clearing the yard of marauding squirrels. I am always well protected when I deliver the trash to the can.

At night, our energizer-bunny-of-a-dog collapses. He gently herds us into the living room and, if we sit, even for a moment, he believes that his people are securely in the pen and he is off duty for the day. He punches out,  settles on the cool floor and is asleep in a nanosecond. In that moment he is transformed into ‘sweet dog.’

Rather than serving as the protector, sweet dog is a sponge for affection. If we move, stand, cross the room, cough,… he rolls onto his back, availing himself for a belly-belly. Sweet dog does not bark. Sweet dog knows our nighttime travel patterns and is somehow always positioned in our path. Sweet dog is a no-apology opportunist.

High joy. Sweet. Giver. Receiver. Both are qualities to be admired.

At night, before he retires to his crate, he waits for us on the foot of our bed. We spend several minutes loving on him. He gives himself over completely to our affection. It is among my favorite rituals of the day to heap love on DogDog before putting him in his crate.

I read once that the phrase “unconditional love” was redundant. The quality that makes love love is the absence of condition. If what we call “love” comes with qualifiers or expectations then it is not love at all. It is something else.

High joy. Sweet. Love (unconditional). I am always, everyday, in awe of this furry teacher and mostly grateful that he is endlessly patient with the glacial pace of his student.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG SLEEPING

 

 

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Eat The Cold [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Eat the cold!” the Buddhist monk said to the shivering novice. “Eat the cold.” It is” monk-speak for embracing rather than resisting the circumstances of your life.

Non-resistance. Detachment. Hold your self lightly. Presence. Make no assumptions. Be here now. Every spiritual tradition has language for the lesson. Eat the cold. Have the experience. Suspend your judgment. See what is there, not what you think is there. Feel it without condemnation or praise.

When I was a teenager I went on a trip with a school group. The bus broke down in the mountains. We sat on the side of the road bemoaning the state of our affair. The teacher laughed at us. “We’re on an adventure and this is part of it!” he exclaimed. “Rather than fool ourselves into thinking we are stuck, maybe we should fool ourselves into thinking this is exactly where we should be! What’s here? What can we do and create here?” I remember nothing about the rest of that trip but I do remember how much fun we had on the side of the road.

Kerri’s wrists are broken. We find ourselves on a metaphoric roadside. Our patterns are completely disrupted so we are experiencing the gift of mindfulness. Putting on a coat requires complete attention. Lifting a fork. Combing out her gorgeous naturally curly hair. Buckling a seat belt. We have abandoned all notion of rushing. It happens when it happens. When she plays the piano, she does it with full attention; nothing is taken for granted.

What’s here in this storm? Maybe this is exactly where we should be. Amazed at our friendships, our first walk since the accident with Jen and Brad, the sun and wind, laughter with 20, cooing at the meal Joan made for us, flowers, brownies and wine, crawling under the healing quilt that Janet sewed.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERY STORM 

 

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Ride The Lion [on KS Friday]

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Let’s just say that 2020 is off to a rough start. If I was to get out my old-school label maker and slap a sticky tape descriptor on last year, on 2019, it would be the year of contention. 2020 is shaping up to be the watershed. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk.

Broken contracts [literal and metaphoric]. Broken wrists. Broken dreams. All of our presses have stopped. We are moving very, very slowly through our days. We are having long conversations about where we’ve been, our successes and failures, dreams realized and those that went to ashes in our mouths, and where we want to go from here.

Unless you are being chased by a real lion, fear is mostly a function of imagination. In the real-lion scenario, fear is a life-saver that makes world-class sprinters of us all. In every other case, sans lion, it is a made-up monster that chases.  Running does no good. This chasing monster requires the opposite of the real lion: stopping, turning, and looking squarely into the eyes of your own dark imagination. The only relevant question is, “What’s wearing the mask of this monster?” Shame? Failure? What should have been? What will never be?

It is a turning point. Stopping. Breathing. Turning and staring back at your wild-eyed scare-fantasy and realizing that it’s merely a mechanism to prevent you from being where you are.  Standing in this exact moment is the only place from which you can enact change. It is the single location in which you can fully, unequivocally appreciate your life. Self-made monsters always dissipate when scrutinized.

Running away casts you as both runner and lion, chaser and chased. Fear the imagined-lion, be the runner. It splits you in half. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! And what if it is not falling? What if the lion-monster chases precisely to prevent you from standing still?

It’s a vicious circle, an energy eddy, this hyper-active dark imagination. It is true, if you think about it, that an imagination that is capable of so much doom is equally capable of fixating on the light side. Ride the lion. Better yet, give it wings so the ride is uncanny and wondrous. The ultimate human choice is where we decide to place our focus.

The story we decide to tell follows the focus-choice. Standing still, the only place from which we can see the array of choices and available stories, we are once again learning, seems to be the gift of the Watershed.

 

 

WATERSHED on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes& CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WATERSHED

 

 

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watershed/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Suspend And Rest [on KS Friday]

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Kerri took a fall earlier this week and broke both of her wrists. For a professional pianist there are few injuries more debilitating and frightening. Needless to say, our world stopped. We’ve stepped out of time.

Judy once told me, after her husband suffered a terrible stroke and she became his full-time caregiver, that she could not think about tomorrow or even an hour ahead. The moment at hand, the task immediately before her, was all that existed. I understood in an abstract way what she was experiencing. The weight of presence. The unbearable lightness of presence.  All that exists is now. Today, I understand what Judy experienced beyond a simple abstract appreciation. At this point, there is no sense in thinking ahead.

A sip of coffee through a straw. Move the hair from her eyes. Help her sit up. There is the task at hand. That is all. And in “that is all” comes a great gift: instant perspective on what has actual importance and what does not. In these past several months everything has felt like a fight to swim upstream. Today, since Monday, there is no fight, there is only stream and it carries us where it will. We let go and are resting. A whole rest.

It is ironic to me that since her fall, in addition to the pain and the real fear of losing her capacity to play the piano [read: lose who she understands herself to be], we have laughed more in four days than in four months. We have let go. We look at what-this-time-last-week appeared to be so heavy with importance and merely shrug. Not important. It floats away. Or we float away from it. In this whole rest there is no capacity to push, no desire to paddle or resist. Suspended, we rest. We take this bite, sweet or savory, and that is all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHOLE REST

 

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